Breaking A Horse: Stages, When, How Long, How to & Cost?

Breaking a horse means training a horse to ride. The word “breaking” initially means breaking horses wild spirit, but it has changed and evolved over the years.


A man tries to breaking a horse

The training includes simple tasks such as putting on a saddle, a bridle, or carrying a rider obediently. The trainer will take instructions for the horse like steering, stopping, and walking.

Below are all things to know about horse breaking: stages of breaking, what age to break, how to break, how long, and how much that horse breaking costs.

Different Stages of Horse Breaking

1. Unbroken

The horse has not been trained yet. He/She cannot carry a rider, pull a vehicle, behave well, and not follow her trainer’s directions.

2. Saddle, harness, and halter broke

The horse is trained to carry a rider in saddle breaking and pull a vehicle in harness breaking.

Halter training is often for young horses or foals. They will get familiar with wearing a halter. And, the trainer can hold a lead rope when walking beside the obedient horse.

3. Dumb (Green) broke

Dumb broke means the training has just begun. The horse will understand simply the led aids of the rider and move forward. Also, it can stop and turn.

Sometimes, this can be known as “green broke”. Green implies a horse or a rider that has just started to learn their job. A green broke horse knows just the basics. There is still a lot of refinement to work on him until he is well broken.

4. Well broke and Broke to death

When the horse is well-trained and can perform reliably, it is well-broke. He can understand leg and seat aids and know how to take correct leads at every canter. Also, he can transition between gaits smoothly.

When being well broke, the horse will be quiet, obedient, and not easy to be spooked.

Sometimes, people use the term “broke to death”. Not a nice word, but it also refers to a well-trained, quiet, and say-to-be-ridden horse for almost anyone.

However, there are many different opinions about well broke.

Hence, when a seller advertises a well broke horse, it should be better to have him explain exactly what that means. And, it is best to watch the horse ride and take a ride yourself to find out whether the horse is suitable.

In some cases, a horse is well-broken to a person but hard rideable to another one.

What Age should you Break a Horse in?

On average, a horse is ready to be broken at the age of 2 – when he has matured and is able to carry a full load.

However, different horses may have different ages of maturity. For example, thoroughbreds mature a bit earlier, and therefore they can be trained around 18 months and racing by 2 years old. Meanwhile, the training age of draft horses and warmbloods is around 3 to 4 years old.

If a horse is ridden too early, its joints can be damaged. You have to wait until he approaches his full development. To be fully developed, your horse needs proper nutrition. Hence, be sure to provide him with adequate hay, water, and horse grain.

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How Many Ways to Break a Horse?

There are 2 ways to train a horse to ride: the gentle and the hard way. The former works well but the latter can cause more trouble than it is worth.

1. The gentle way

The horse will build trust with its trainer. This relationship will last a lifetime, and gentle breaking takes time.

Although a horse and a rider are enough, it will be better when another person can show riding on a well-trained horse. This is called the “monkeys see, monkeys do” method, and it really works well, especially if your horse is given treats.

After gaining the horse’s trust, halter breaking can be started.



2. The hard way

The horse is forced to the rider’s will. Every animal is easy to rebel when forced to do something they do not want. Hence, sometimes this way does not work.

A horse can be forced to obey, however, it can resent after that and will act more often.

How to Break a Horse?

Breaking a horse starts from offering simple commands to saddling it up to ride. All the training below is in a Gentle way, including halter-breaking, training a horse to lead, bit and bridle breaking, saddle breaking, and ready to ride.

1. Halter-breaking

It works best on younger horses.

The rider should spend time with the horse daily, and let her see putting a halter on other horses.

You should spend time brushing and petting her head. Treats should be given often. Remember to use different treats to know which one the horse likes best.

You should be patient because colts will never wear a halter on the first try.


2. Training a horse to lead

When your horse is acquainted with wearing a halter, you can start leading. Again, it is better to have a trained horse along with your colt during the training.

Put lead ropes on both horses’ halters. Then go to the end of the lead rope, give them a treat. The trained horse will move to get his treat. Several times, your colt will follow suit.

In case your colt does not move, you have to move a bit closer to him. Do not give a treat if he does not move.



3. Bit and bridle breaking

This should be started when your colt’s head has fully grown. It is best to use the least restrictive bit.

When your colt can handle with a bit in his mouth, you should give him a treat. Once he is bit breaking, you should keep using the same style of bit for him.


4. Saddle breaking

Be sure that your horse can lead and follow direction movement before starting saddle breaking. It is also better to have another horse to join the training.

To help your horse get familiar with something on his back, try to lean on him while brushing him.


Put on his back lightweight things such as an old coat. You should do this on a trained horse first, then give treats to both.

When your horse is comfortable with lightweight things, replace it with the saddle. Usually, he will accept it. If not, back to the lightweight item again for a while.

When he feels good with the comfortable saddle, start putting part of your weight on his back. In other words, while brushing him, you can stand on a stool and lean over him.

When he gets used to a saddle blanket as well as your weight, start putting things around his back and belly. This period may be the longest one. Do not forget to calm him by brushing as you always do.

Once everything is well done, start introducing the saddle. It will be easier if your horse can see another horse with a saddle as much as possible. You can ride other horses close to him either.

5. Ready to ride

The horse now can move as you want without bucking or acting up. He trusts you and is more obedient. If you love him and treat him kindly, he will also love you. And, his loving relationship will last a lifetime.


How Long Does It Take to Break a Horse to Ride?

Like every human, every horse is just different. They will learn things differently. That is why breaking a horse can be very intense.

Hence, not all horses have the same timeline process. Then, if your horse does not follow up the average training period, please do not be harsher on him. If you have a trainer, make sure he is humane.

On average, I would say that it takes about 60 days to break a horse to ride. Usually, the first 30 days is to get your horse on board. Another 30 days is to add instructions.

In case you have a trainer, send him 90 days if you can. The more time he has, the less pressure he meets.

If your horse is already broken with the basics, but you would like him to do simple tasks such as load changes, this can take just a week or less. This is because they know how to do the instructions.

Cost for Breaking a Horse

I would say that breaking a horse may burden your budget. A riding lesson costs from $30 to $100 for half an hour.

If you are near your trainer, you can come over and ride the horse. If your trainer is far, you have to send your horse off. In this case, you have to pay the board, feed, and pasture cost for the training.

Many trainers offer a bundle which is much cheaper. It can range from $100 to $400 for a training week. For the monthly, the price can be from $200 to $1000 based on where you live. Another bundle is from $600 a month to $3k+ for 2-3 months total and lasts the life until you are consistent at riding your horse afterward.


To conclude, I would mention again 2 special things for you to bear in mind.

First, always check a trained horse that you want to buy and get a chance to ride.

Second, breaking a horse can be a big investment but it will go a lifetime with your horse. So, it is important and worth it for you to find the truth right trainer.

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